The following blog post was written by Chanell Alexander at TechnologyAdvice.
One of the most pivotal questions you will ask throughout the year - regardless of the size of your association - is:
How can I continue to grow my association membership numbers?
It’s a great question to ask, but it likely brings with it anxiety. You may wonder if you’re doing all you can, or if your current tactics are optimized for success. Well, it’s likely that you’re not alone. Many other individuals who are in association leadership positions are likely asking the same questions.
To begin to implement plans to grow your membership numbers, you must first make an effort to understand the motivations of potential members. Read on for seven tips to not only do this, but to also influence constant growth.
Track and Understand Your Membership Outcomes
Before you can begin to market your association to gain additional members, you have to ensure you and all the staff understand the value it adds. There’s a difference in the significance between 100 members attending an association workshop, and 100 members using the knowledge gained to take a test that leads to an association-backed certification. Are members leaving events or interactions with professional development experience or certifications? Track this information and tout it in your material. This step also brings us to the next point:
Once you make a practice of monitoring what members are taking away from your offerings, you can then make a case for companies and organizations to sponsor events or workshops. This development is an excellent way to attach your name to a recognized brand - creating credibility - as well as creating a way to receive funding for many of your events, allowing you put more of your resources into marketing your memberships.
Talk to the Source
Are there specific courses your association could start to offer? Is there a preference for online workshops or in-person events? Do members feel they have enough time to network? Is there an opportunity to fill a knowledge-gap by offering a mini-conference? These are all questions you can put in a survey and send out to your members. These individuals can give you insights into what you could be doing differently and how to go about it. Pleasing them will not only encourage more of their participation, but it will spark them to invite friends and colleagues. You may even want to transfer the ideas you get directly into a project management tool where you can then track progress on any of the initiatives as they move forward. (Check out TechnologyAdvice for recommendations on good project management software for your organization.)
Personalize Your Outreach
This is where having a robust association management system comes into play. If used correctly, you can make an effort to create campaigns to individually reach out to inactive members - or those who may have chosen not to renew. You can send them customized email messages that detail your current offerings and an invitation to come back by offering a discount. Another great way to personalize messaging is to send birthday emails or letters. It shows that the organization cares and is willing to prove it. A membership management tool can save member details that will help you reach out to them individually.
Set your Sights on Millennials and Generation Z
While associations may not be the first thought that enters the mind of a Millennial or Gen Z member, they are thinking about growth and opportunity. These groups are entrepreneurial, and they thrive on training and professional development. Your association should begin reaching out to these groups and making a membership worth their while. For Millennials, most are still in the fairly early years of employment. So, if you don’t already, you may want to have a lower-priced tier for early professionals.
Most members of Generation Z are still in undergraduate school, so make a point to partner with local colleges and universities to offer a heavily discounted student membership. For both groups, it makes sense to reveal the benefits of your members and discuss the training and development they are receiving.
Use Your Career Page
The president of Boxwood Technology, Christine Smith, found that career resources are one of the top three things users click on when they come to an association’s website. This is likely to be the introduction most web visitors experience when they interact with your association. So, make it worth their while and make a point to offer a wide range of job postings related to the niche your association serves. To encourage membership, you may also want to only offer certain parts of the career page to members and notify users of this when they visit.
Strategically Use Social Media
Social media is an excellent way to encourage your association leadership to be seen as thought leaders in their respective industries. On Twitter, it’s a good idea to find and participate in chats related to your service area. On LinkedIn, you can create a group page where you can answer member questions and discuss more of what your association is all about.
LinkedIn also allows your staff and members to write blog posts related to your association’s industry. Instagram is an excellent way to share photos from events, video testimonials, and insightful videos related to your niche. These actions can get users to your website where it’s even more likely they’ll become a member.
According to surveys gathered by Boardroom, a resource site for associations, 24 percent of respondents saw a decline in association membership. This trend does not have to be the story of your association. At the heart of any growth strategy is an understanding of what current and potential members need from your organization. It requires a plan that includes hearing their input, meeting them where they are, and providing services they need. Every association’s journey is different, but if you implement these suggestions over time, you’re bound to not only see a rise in members, but a rise in long-term members as well.
Chanell Alexander is a writer for TechnologyAdvice. She’s a freelance writer and digital marketing strategist. She has over seven years of experience in the nonprofit field and enjoys blending innovative technology solutions with communications.